Letter To The Editor: Thoughts on the PCA’s Korean Language Presbyteries

I am going to say some things that may strike folks the wrong way. So let me preface my comments by saying that I am of Chinese descent and my wife was born and raised in Korea. We currently attend an English speaking church in NYC that is ~80% Asian, including ~40% Korean.

I understand that we often have to make special concessions in order to reach folks from different cultures with the Gospel.

However, it is my opinion that Korean Language Presbyteries (KLPs) perpetuate a xenophobic streak that exists in Korean culture and among some Korean churches. I’ve attended Korean speaking churches and seen first-hand the tendency among some of these churches to adopt a bunker mentality that seeks to preserve the “old-ways” and keep out the new, sometimes at the expense of following Scripture.

This xenophobic streak exists in part because of the history of Korea itself as an often colonized and occupied nation and also it’s relatively short immigration history here in the US. There is a strong desire to preserve and to protect the Korean culture and the Korean language from “pollution” and the threat of extinction by foreign powers.

The question here is should the PCA continue to make concessions in this area, all in the name of empowering other cultures when in fact allowing KLPs to exist may actually be condescending and overly fraternal? In essence, allowing the “weaker” brother to play by their own rules because they are “not capable” of keeping up with the mainstream of the PCA?

Would it not be more loving and proper to ask Korean churches to become part of the mainstream PCA and work as diligently as we can to be inclusive as a denomination? Otherwise, why don’t we have Chinese, Brazilian, and Spanish language presbyteries as well?

One other thing to consider is that KLPs do not serve well the younger generation of Korean-Americans in the church. I experienced this as a teenager in the Chinese church and saw first-hand how a church that refuses to accept all the implications of being the church in a “foreign” nation risks losing the heart and mind of it’s young people. If you don’t believe me, just do some research on the number of Asian-Americans who grew up in a first generation church and stopped attending church all together when they reach adulthood.

Or if that is too bleak a picture, take a look at the number of young Korean-Americans who attend Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PRC) in New York City and her church plants in NYC; they probably make up ~40% of the attendees. If all the Asian-Americans – Chinese and Korean – at RPC left to form their own church, it would, day one, be one of the largest Asian-American churches in the US.

These are Christians who’ve decided they longer want to be a part of the immigrant church culture. Should the GA not take a positions as leaders to help churches,currently in KLPs, to better serve all generations of Korean-Americans?

Sorry for the long rant, but I would encourage everyone attending the PCA General Assembly to think long and hard about this issue instead of rubber stamping the overture towards expanding KLPs.

Kenneth Kang-Hui has served as a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in Manhattan and has lived in New York City for almost 40 years. This article is taken from a discussion group at http://weswhite.net and is used with his permission.